Opinion: Tracking the changes in the Vancouver Canucks

Just over one-third of the way into the 2013-’14 NHL season, we’ve had a chance to see what the Canucks have to offer this season.

With a couple of big changes in the offseason and an aging core, many were optimistic about the Canucks chances this season in the tough Western Conference. It was known from the beginning of the season that the first place division championships of years past would be a little more difficult to attain this time around.

Currently  they sit in ninth place in the Western Conference one point out of a playoff spot with a respectable 14-10-5 record.

The biggest change we saw was in the coaching position. The Canucks decided to go another direction and, after seven years in Vancouver, let go of Alain Vigneault and brought in the fiery John Tortorella from the New York Rangers.

Tortorella’s style differed from Vigneault in that he is more outspoken and had sometimes been involved in verbal altercations with the media while coaching in New York. He also brought a desire to have his first-line guys being involved in penalty killing and blocking shots and not just attacking. Tortorella’s coaching style has been accepted by the team, and although the Canuck’s record isn’t spectacular, they are still in the playoff picture in a tough division.

Another big change in the off-season was the trade of Cory Schneider to the New Jersey Devils. Schneider was a first round draft pick of Vancouver’s from 2004.

The original plan was to find a place for Roberto Luongo and his big contract, most likely in Florida where his family was, and have Schneider has the starter. The trade shocked fans but also simplified the once-difficult goaltending situation in Vancouver. Luongo, the former Vancouver captain, had spent his time as a backup goaltender, a position he didn’t enjoy. With Luongo now the starting goalie and Eddie Lack in position as the backup, the goaltending issue finally seems clear for the team. Luongo’s season has been decent so far. He has a 2.41 goals against average and a .911 save percentage. He is still considered one of the best goaltenders in the game and will potentially have an opportunity to play for Team Canada at the Olympics in Russia later this year.

Offensively, the Canucks have struggled at times this season, unable to put up a lot of goals. Their top three scorers – Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin and Ryan Kesler – have performed well but secondary scoring hasn’t always come easily. Alex Burrows, the one-time 35-goal scorer is goalless in the 17 games he’s dressed for this season. He is coming off a broken foot that occurred at the start of the season and he is showing signs of frustration with his goal drought.

Defensively, the Canucks have some of the strongest defensemen in the league with Garrison’s powerful shot, Bieksa’s grit and Hamhuis’ stay-at-home style. Defense is not a big area of concern for the Canucks, but it is important they keep performing going into the second half of the season.

The Canucks have a long road ahead of them this season. It isn’t going to be the President’s Trophy season of years past, but if they can stay in the playoff picture and get in, anything is possible in the post-season. The team has played from a top-seeded position in the last few years and has been expected to win. Perhaps playing from a lower seed with fewer expectations, the pressure will be off and instead they can focus on just playing hockey.

Alex Clipsham

Alex Clipsham is a second year Journalism & Communications student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, B.C.

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